GREEN - Giving to the Machine

by Simon Naylor

This is the second BPN in the machine arc. After discovering a little about Tek Trex in Moving Machinery, the Ops are given an opportunity to catch a glimpse of their plans for the future.


There are some unusual people in the World of Progress and Manchine Cults certainly fall under this category. Manchine cults aspire to be like the machines they worship, striving to become mechanical both physically and psychologically. To show any humanity is seen as heresy, and they graft metal onto their bodies in order to try to become like Manchines. The techniques for this process are varied, and many succumb to infection from poor surgery in unhygienic areas, but larger cults can sometimes procure the services of back street surgeons who use techniques from the Chrome Age. Recipients of this kind of treatment can be very convincing and provoke fear among the local population.

Corpore Ferris is one such cult. Up until roughly a year ago they were relatively small, numbering only half a dozen or so. They lacked the resources and motivation to become anything more than a small group of lunatics. That is until a Tek Trex intervened in order to utilise an already willing set of subjects to test some experimental systems.

In October 901 Tek Trex scouts found the group they were looking for, a small and pliable Manchine cult. Utilising their latest drone, a humanoid machine under direct remote control of an operator in a forward operating base, they convinced the cult that they had been visited by a benevolent Manchine.

The new drone was only a prototype though. The production model needed to be autonomous in order to be effective, a remote operator simply couldn’t be natural enough for the drone to pass as human. Of course an operator would still be used as a handler in order to prevent the covert drones going native or the way of the Manchine. This one could be tested another way though, and it would lead the way for its successors to be properly field tested.

Contact

Upon contacting Cpt Barnes the squad will be greeted by a voice that sounds to belong to a tough man who has more years than any Shiver has any right to have. Indeed, it does. Cpt Barnes has seen a lot of years in Downtown, the latest of which was in Lower Downtown in an area called The Sump. Barnes did a good job in The Sump. He’s one of the few genuinely good men in his organisation, popular with his men and the public, and this got him a retirement to a desk job in Central. He hasn’t forgotten the problems of his old precinct though, and has issued a number of BPNs to try and solve a few of the bigger problems there. He prefers to do his business in person, so asks the characters to visit his office in Central for a brief.

Upon meeting Barnes the squad will find a man who looks like he has seen a lot of Downtown. Completely hairless from a life in the polluted belly of the city and with an air of toughness that even a Stormer could pick up on. He looks out of place in his moderately expensive (but rather bland) suit. His office is located deep within the basements of Shiver HQ in a nondescript office with few personal effects making it feel sterile and unfriendly. Barnes himself, however, is warm and polite, if a little uncouth.

He issued this BPN because of an increasing problem with a Manchine Cult, Corpus Ferris. For the last year or so they have been a nuisance, robbing and mugging to finance their bizarre surgery. The local Shivers have been able to keep on top of that, or at least keep their antics no worse than anywhere else in Lower Downtown. Recently though their attacks have got more violent and people have been killed, including a Shiver.
Barnes wants the squad to locate and destroy the cult. No warrants required, no questions asked – this is Lower Downtown after all. Barnes lost one of his men and wants to prevent any more losses. SLA was pushed by Corpus Ferris and is happy to let Barnes push back. He tells the squad to start their operation with his replacement, Lt Chow.

The Sump

The Sump is a pretty descriptive name for this industrial part of the city. It was once dominated by a manufacturing complex that was productive, fairly sparsely populated and mostly automated. As Downtown deteriorated though and areas of the city were lost to the Cannibal Sectors, people started to find homes among the machinery. People and automated machinery don’t mix, and before long the multitude of unnoticed minor accidents eventually accumulated into one rather large one.

Now the machines don’t work. The sector is a tangle of rusting metal, scattered with toxic pools that SLA didn’t see the value in cleaning up. The residents have built a three dimensional shanty town among this wreckage, using the old storage rooms and assembly areas to create their homes. Not many residents live in the ruins, there are plenty of run-down residential buildings too but the name of The Sump stems from the factory remains of the same name.

Only a proportion of The Sump is above ground, the area which holds the residential buildings. This isn’t uncommon in Lower Downtown, and The Sump is typical in that the underground levels stretch down for an unchartered depth. The industrial supply tunnels are large enough to be considered roads, although very little traffic would venture that far. After the first fifteen levels or so, or at least as close as levels get in the maze of wreckage, the denizens thin out drastically to be replaced by rats, carnivorous pigs, carriens, and other unpleasantries.

Shivers

The Shiver Precinct is near the top central side of The Sump. This is about as good as the sector gets, which is most probably as a direct result of the Precinct and the Shivers who live around it. The population of topside, the local name for the area above ground, has recently found itself with a grudging respect for the local Shivers due to the efforts of Cpt (then Lt) Barnes. Lt Chow, however, isn’t as conscientious.
Chow has a little bit of a dilemma at the moment. There are easier ways to make Captain as a Shiver than how Barnes did it – politics and selfish abuse of power usually works better, especially in a backwater precinct. He doesn’t want Ops poking about and making his ambitions more difficult. However, losing men isn’t a good way to get ahead either, so he has decided to get the Ops away as quickly as possible. He will, therefore, offer the squad every resource available to him to get the job done as quickly – and unintrusively – as possible. He will appoint Sergeant Murdoch (with an APC) as a liaison to stay with the squad and keep an eye on them, and invite the squad to come and meet them personally for a brief.

Murdoch will pick the squad up from Uptown and take them to The Sump. The journey to Lower Downtown gradually illustrates to the squad how the city deteriorates, and their journey through The Sump is the worst of it. The APC picks its way through streets cluttered with debris and wrecked vehicles, observed by thin and pasty citizens. The Shiver precinct looks like a fortress, with a walled compound and wire and searchlights. Murdoch assures the squad that these defences are a relic of the time before Barnes when social unrest led regular riots to the walls of the station.

Upon arriving at the precinct, Murdoch will show the squad to Lt Chow’s office. The observant among them will notice that the office has new and rather expensive furniture, above the station of a Shiver Lieutenant. Chow has been diverting some of the station’s budget into improving his office, which while not really fraudulent isn’t the best use for the money by a long stretch. Chow will be friendly and helpful, offering the Operatives a drink and inviting them to sit. Murdoch will loiter at the back of the office. Chow briefs the Ops on the situation in The Sump:

For the last couple of months the sector has been subject to some rather gruesome murders. Deaths are nothing unusual in this part of the city, as in any other part of Lower Downtown, but these were unusual. The bodies of seemingly random victims were being dragged out of the polluted sump towards the bottom of the sector, all killed with vibro weapons. The cost of vibro weapons alone makes these deaths unusual, as did the fact that there seemed to be no reason for the deaths as nothing was stolen from the victims. Correctly expecting little help from SLA this deep in the city over the deaths of a few civilians (actually 15 at this point), the Shivers just got on with things. A week ago though, two Shivers were found in the sump. The pair had left their squad and APC to enter a lower part of the sector, part of the wreckage of the factory. They only had a few hundred yards to go to meet their contact, but the pair never returned. The rest of their squad followed in strength about half an hour later, and found spent Browbeater rounds and empty 10mm casings (most of the Shivers in The Sump illegally carry at least a CAF handgun and usually a 10mm pistol). They also found blood in no small quantity. By the time the bodies were recovered two more Shivers had met their demise in a similar fashion. Chow tries to play down the situation as gang activity or DarkNight getting shirty, but the reports crossed Barnes’ desk and the BPN was raised. Chow reassures the squad that they have the full assistance of the station and unlimited use of its facilities.

Rumour and opinion

Once Chow has finished with the squad they are free to go about their investigation. A few sources of information are available at the moment – the forensic and pathology reports, the Shivers who patrol the streets, Murdoch and the local civilians. Even if the squad utterly fail to find any of the other sources, Murdoch should be able to offer his information to get them started.

Forensics – The reports from the crime scenes (those that have been found) show that the victims seem to have been attacked from several directions and with what are most likely to be vibro-sabres. There seems to have been quite some strength in the attacks too, although little finesse, as the corpses have revealed. At the last few attacks there were traces of the attackers’ blood too, revealing them to be human (and un-augmented, should the squad ask). The armour and weapons had been removed from the bodies.

Shivers – The Shivers who patrol the sector in their APCs are more than a little spooked by the whole situation. Four of their colleagues have been killed, and it would seem that there will be more before the culprits are brought to justice. Downtown Shivers are normally pretty shirty with Ops, but these will be as helpful as possible for fear that they’re next. The rumours are that there’s a serial killer cognate, and that they’ve moved on from civilians to Shivers for extra credibility. The patrol Shivers don’t agree with Chow’s diagnosis of gangs or DarkNight; they spend a lot of time out there and know who does and doesn’t operate in The Sump.

Murdoch – Murdoch has much the same opinion of the facts as the other Shivers. He isn’t particularly hand-picked by Chow for this job, he just happened to be the first name that came up. However, this job has given him a little insight into how Chow works. He knows his boss is out for number one and will be reluctant to pass information back to him. Unfortunately he doesn’t trust Operatives either and so won’t make his opinions of Chow known unless the squad earns his trust. He’s been in The Sump for a long time and has some good contacts. If the squad treat him well he can save them a lot of time by taking them to the right people.

Civilians – There’s a lot of civilians, and few of them have any love for SLA. Finding the ones who have some information could be tricky without a skilled Point Op or the help of Murdoch. Most won’t even talk to Ops, and will tolerate Shivers. The ones that could be bribed into giving their opinions agree with the Shivers’ theory of a killer cognate, although general opinion is that the Shivers are being killed for their equipment. A few know a little more though. A few people in The Sump make a point of collecting information and selling it on. It’s not uncommon in Downtown, but they don’t often make themselves known to Operatives. Murdoch knows where to find them though.

McLean’s Bar

Only a bar in the loosest sense of the word, McLean’s is what remains of the maintenance staff quarters from before the factory complex collapsed. Near to the bottom of the sector, it is the only bar where those who live among the ruins can drink. The local hooch that is served there is cheap and toxic, but the locals drink it anyway. The only member of staff, Gill McLean, hears about pretty much everything that happens down here through his use of well placed free drinks. His little extra trade in information has given him a little extra protection in the form of a double barrelled shotgun, just to ensure that he doesn’t need any security staff.
Murdoch will tell the Ops that their best chances of finding out anything useful is to try not to look like Ops and go in light. They can get the information either way, it’ll just cost more if they go in armed and armoured. For 50u McLean will tell the Ops that the bodies have been seen being dumped on a couple of occasions. The culprits wore bulky black trenchcoats that looked like they were made of leather or rubber and covered the lower half of their faces with scarves or rags. They were described as being very pale (not exceptional down here) and all having very short hair. McLean will charge double for this information if the characters are obviously Ops, and if threatened he will give up his information (with the right level of persuasion), but will be a lot less helpful later.

The Survivor

During this point in the investigations, when things start to slow down and the players start to clutch at straws, Murdoch overhears a report over the radio about another attack. This one has a survivor.
The squad will undoubtedly rush to the scene of the attack and will get there as another APC arrives with an Enforcer Shiver squad. A third APC is already there, the transport of the Shivers who were attacked. At the scene there are six patrol Shivers looking nervous, crowded around an opening in the ground. At the bottom of the opening, about eight meters below, is another Shiver lying still with obvious injuries. The surviving members of the patrol squad relate the situation to the Ops and Enforcers: Two of the squad left the APC to follow a potential suspicious character down an alleyway. With the men as jittery over the killings as they are, another two decided to follow a minute or two later after a brief discussion. As they followed their colleagues’ route they heard cries for help over the radio and rushed onwards towards the sounds of gunfire. Entering an area left by a collapsed building they see a pair of men dressed in bulky black trenchcoats with the lower halves of their faces covered by tight scarves, who are looking down into the hole. The Shivers open fire with their unauthorised handguns and drive back the men, but return fire from the SMGs of their opponents prevents them pursuing. Peering down the hole that was the subject of the men’s attention they see an injured Shiver who has since stopped moving. The remains of the squad are hoping one of the Ops is equipped to go down and recover their colleague. Discussing the encounter with hindsight, the two Shivers who attacked the men come to some conclusions. Although not obviously armoured (although the trenchcoats could have concealed some), one swears he hit his mark several times with little effect. Both also claim that the men had white, pupil-less eyes, although they were too large to have been Ebon.

The Shiver at the bottom of the hole is recovered by whatever method, but is dead by the time anyone reaches him. Upon closer inspection though, the other Shivers claim not to know who the body is – he certainly isn’t from the squad and nobody recognises him as working in this precinct. Once the body is taken back to the station the armour is removed in the mortuary and some unusual discoveries are made. The individual has a number of surgical alterations made, all in some way implanting small pieces of metal or technology. They are crudely done and show signs of having been infected, such as metal and ceramic plates under the skin of the arms and chest, and pieces of broken circuitry with no possible function. The man appears to have died from wounds received from two 10mm rounds to the chest, although several fractured ribs and a broken leg would seem to be as a result of falling down the hole he was found in. The armour he was wearing bears the serial number of one of the pair of Shivers who were recovered from the sump earlier in the week.

This should strike the squad as a disturbing turn of events. Those with a high streetwise skill (5+) will recognise the surgery as the mark of a manchine cult, but even if they don’t pick up on that it should make them realise they aren’t dealing with anyone sane.

On The Hunt

A manchine cult isn’t likely to integrate into society very well, and so they are likely loitering in the depths of the sector. Nobody lives in the bowels of the wreckage because of the unpleasant environment, damp and dark and frequently poisonous. A machine, or at least someone who either thinks they are a machine or strives to be one, doesn’t care about not having any human comfort. Coupled with the proximity to the sump, the chances of them being among the twisted foundations are reasonably high. Of course the squad may not yet have guessed that their quarry are manchine cultists, but with their unusual appearance they aren’t likely to be anywhere busy.

Several possible avenues lie open now:

A manchine cult would likely want a power source, whether they needed it or not, and a quick check with the department of architecture, construction and planning will come up with three likely locations in that area for power to be acquired.

Gill McLean in the bar knows a little about the manchine cult. Speaking to him and telling him about the attack and the body will prompt him to give the name of the cult and a brief description of manchine cults in general. He wants all the information on the situation, including the Shiver attacks, in return for this. Failing that, he wants 150u. He won’t change the price if the Ops look obviously SLA this time, but if they pissed him off earlier he’ll charge an additional 50u regardless of how much information they give him in return. Of course they could just beat it out of him again.

There aren’t many safe routes that can get two people carrying a body close enough to the sump to dump them in. About half a dozen large walkways and tunnels are stable enough, and while many more lead to the edge of the toxic lake they are far too likely to collapse for anyone to use. Any number of devices could be used to monitor these points, although there will be plenty of false alarms from pigs and large rats. Finding out which route is taken, along with other bits of information, can narrow down the possible location to a couple of chambers.

The squad could just wander around the ruins looking for the cult. This is unlikely to work, but it’s possible. Should they take this course of action (or indeed any other time they wander through the lower areas of The Sump) they will randomly encounter typical Lower Downtown dangers.

Whatever the squad do, the cult will carry on with their plan.

Corpore Ferris

Corpore Ferris, the cult at the centre of the problems, are engaging in two activities at the moment. The first, which is driven by the cult, is to gather resources and try out their new cybernetic implants. They are trying to act like they would expect manchines to act, killing at random. They’ve stopped short of taking the skins of their victims while they gain strength, as that would probably attract even more attention than they already have, but they targeting increasingly competent victims to hone their skills. Only a handful of the cultists have the implants yet though, the rest are acting in support in order to earn theirs. The six upgraded cultists, initially armed with vibro-sabres (provided by Tek-Trex), are making the attacks. Another fifteen are being used to recruit, gather money, scout, and get rid of dead bodies. These are the ones who are using the Blocker stolen from the Shivers, and it is one of these who was found earlier.

Meanwhile, Tek-Trex have their own objectives. Their prototype remote drone, masquerading as a manchine, is observing the performance of the new implants. While the cultists are fighting the drone is receiving technical data from them about the implants and their physiology, and transmitting it to the operator. Tek-Trex don’t plan on using cultists for the finished product – they’re too unpredictable – so they’re planning on destroying them once SLA get too involved.

Should the Ops get too stuck there are chances that they may encounter one of the unmodified cultists, dressed in their distinctive trenchcoats, and get the opportunity to track them into the depths of the sector. Alternatively, a couple of the unmodified cultists will be used as bait when the cult decides to try itself against Operatives.

Wind Up

By the time the characters know that they’re looking for Corpore Ferris it should be about time to wind up the BPN. The finale should be a shootout between the cultists and the Ops, but the details should depend upon how they conducted their investigation.

If they’ve made little progress and relied on McLean and Murdoch to make the connections, they should be ambushed by Corpore Ferris. With six upgraded cultists armed with vibro-sabres and DN SMGs, and a further fourteen with a couple of suits of Blocker and some 10mm and shotguns, it could be messy. An ambush in an alleyway or in the wreckage of the lower levels would allow Corpore Ferris to swamp the squad with cultists, which would lead to a lot of incoming fire and could take some of the characters down simply through bruising damage (in Tek-Trex style). In this situation the upgraded cultists would just lend fire support.

If they’ve made some decent judgements, but still relied on the NPCs too heavily, it is likely that Corpore Ferris will attack them in McLean’s bar. This will force them to attack in waves, as there are only two entrances. Four cultists will cover each entrance while the remaining six will rush the main door. Meanwhile, the six upgraded cultists will rush the back door to strike just as every turns their attention to the first attack. Armed with vibro-sabres and likely to get close enough to use them before the Ops have chance to react, they are likely to cause considerable damage to squad members untrained in close combat.

A reasonable attempt at the BPN could see the Ops walking in on some of the cultists attacking McLean. They know he’s been passing information to the Ops and killing him is the easiest way to stop him. Alternatively, they could arrive soon after the attack. McLean has killed one cultist and wounded another before falling, but the blood left by the injured attacker could be used by a Bio-hound to track them back to their base. Similarly, one of the cultists could lose something that could allow an Ebon to use True Track.

Catching Corpore Ferris at home is the best outcome for the Ops. They’ll have the advantage of surprise that could allow them to cut many of the unmodified cultists down before they can even react. The unmodified cultists will still put up a decent fight though, and the prototype drone will be there. The prototype is the key to the BPN, although the squad won’t even know of its existence at this point.

As the Dust Settles

However they fight, the BPN can be considered complete if the squad survives the encounter with Corpore Ferris. The chips used in the upgraded cultists are designed to blow with the death of the host, so SLA can glean little information from them apart from the structure of the cybernetics. If the fight was anywhere other than the Corpore Ferris hideout then the prototype drone will skulk off back to Tek-Trex and nobody will even be aware of its existence, but if the prototype is killed too then SLA will get some useful information. Either way, the effects of the information (or lack of) will not be apparent until much later in the campaign.
When the characters make their contacts aware that the BPN is complete they will be told to secure the area until a cleanup unit arrives. Nothing is to enter or leave. The cleanup unit consists of a Kilcopter populated by two men in suits, two men in labcoats, six Operatives in Crackshot or similar, and half a dozen or so medical staff. This little group means business – they are all (apart from the medics, who are being used as stretcher-bearers) at least SCL 5, the executives SCL 4. It may take them a while to get to the area on foot if the fight was taken to the cultists, and the medics will take some time to get all the bodies into the Kilcopter. In the meantime the men in lab coats will film the area and check for equipment, the Operatives will relieve the characters and secure the area, and the executives will want to speak to the squad.

Conclusion

The executives are from the Dept of Subversion, and they are interested in where these implants are coming from. They tell the squad leader to prepare a report and hand deliver it to the Department in Central. They also tell the squad not to discuss Corpore Ferris outside the squad, and ask who else knows about the details of the BPN. Only Murdoch and McLean should know anything of importance, and there’s a good chance McLean is dead at this stage. The executives tell the squad to make sure Murdoch doesn’t make it back to the precinct, and they’ll take care of anyone else. Murdoch is standing around looking out of place, out of earshot of this conversation. It’s up to the squad what they do about Murdoch, but it should cause them some distress. They can either do as they’re told and kill him, or tell him he has to disappear and let him go. If they do let him go he won’t let them down, and SLA will never find out that he’s still alive. He could also prove to be a valuable ally in the future.

Corpore Ferris Cultist
STR: 5
DEX: 4
COOL: 9
Hits: 9
Phase: 2, 4
Pistol: 3
Rifle: 3
Blade 1-H: 4
Some in PV 5 Blocker

DN74 pistol
Clip: 20 ROF: 3/1 RCL: 3 Range: 12m
Dam: 5 Pen: 4 AD: 2


Civilian shotgun
Clip: 2 ROF: 1/2 RCL: 5/7 Range: 12m
Dam: 9 Pen: 7 AD: 7

Corpore Ferris Enhanced Cultist
STR: 12
DEX: 7
COOL: 10
Hits: 19
Phase: 1, 3, 4
Pistol: 5
Rifle: 3
Blade 1-H: 5
PV: 4

DN80 SMG
Clip: 40 ROF: 5/1 RCL: 7/3 Range: 15m
Dam: 5 Pen: 4 AD: 2

Vibro Sabre
Dam: 4 (+4) Pen: 4 AD: 2

Prototype Drone
The drone will most probably be mistaken for a manchine by Operatives, but unlike manchines it is incapable of making decisions of its own. Generally it will be controlled by a Tek Trex technician via radio from a safe location, and should it find itself without connection it will default to a standard program of basic (but silent) humanoid behaviour. Should it be attacked while disconnected it will flee to a rendezvous and wait further instructions.
ID: 20
Phases: 1, 2, 4, 5
PV: 3
Skills: Pistol-7, blade 1H-7, auto-8
Equipment: DN SMG, Vibrosabre (+4 DAM from strength)
Note: While the flesh on the drone may take normal damage from weapons, the machinery remains mostly unaffected. The ID listed above will take armour damage from weapons, not normal damage.